A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
This pressing just knocked us out from beginning to end — this is the Zep II sound you want.
At least 80% of the copies we buy these days — for many hundreds of dollars each I might add — go right back to the seller. The biggest problem we run into besides obvious scratches that play and worn out grooves is easy to spot: just play the song Thank You at the end of side one. Most of the time there is inner groove damage so bad that the track becomes virtually unlistenable.
It’s become a common dealbreaker for the records we buy on the internet. We get them in, we play that track, we hear it distort and we pack the record up and sent it back to the seller.
But this copy plays clean all the way to the end on both sides — assuming you have a highly-tweaked, high-performance front end of course.
After we heard this copy sound so good and play so well we decided it was time to set a record here at Better Records for the most expensive record to ever hit the site.
Turn It Up!
This is undoubtedly one of the best, maybe THE best hard rock recording of all time, but you need a good pressing if you’re going to unleash anything approaching its full potential. We just conducted a shootout and heard MUCH more bad sound than good. You name it — imports, reissues, originals — we’ve played ’em, and most of them were TERRIBLE. (Especially the non-RL originals. That’s some of the worst sound we’ve ever heard. If you see a “J” stamper run for your life.)
The best copies of Zep II have the kind of rock and roll firepower that’s guaranteed to bring any system to its knees. I can tell you with no sense of shame whatsoever that I do not have a system powerful enough to play this record at the levels I was listening to it at in one of our shootouts a while back. When the big bass comes in, hell yeah it distorts. It would have distorted worse at any concert the band ever played. Did people walk out, or ask the band to turn down the volume? No way. The volume IS the sound.
That’s what the album is trying to prove. This recording is a statement by the band that they can fuse so much sonic power into a piece of vinyl that no matter what stereo you own, no matter how big the speakers, no matter how many watts you think you have, IT’S NOT ENOUGH.
The music will be so good you be unable to restrain yourself from turning it up louder, and louder, and still louder, making the distortion you hear an intoxicating part of the music. Resistance, as well all know, is futile.
The louder you play a top copy the better it sounds. Turn up Moby Dick as loud as you can. Now it’s starting to sound like the real thing. But drum kits play FAR LOUDER than any stereo can, so even as loud as you can play it isn’t as loud as the real thing. This is in itself a form of distortion, a change from the original sound.
If at the end of a side you don’t feel like you’ve just been run over by a freight train, you missed out on one of the greatest musical experiences known to man: Led Zeppelin at ear-splitting levels. If you missed them in concert, and I did, this is the only way to get some sense of what it might have been like. (Assuming of course that you have the room, the speakers and all the other stuff needed to reproduce this album. Maybe one out of fifty systems I’ve ever run into fits that bill. But we’re all trying, at least I hope we are, and it’s good to have goals in life, even ones you can never reach.)
Zep II: None Rocks Harder
This has to be the hardest rocking rock album of all time. As you will read below, the best copies — often with the same stampers as the not-as-good copies by the way — have a LIFE and a POWER to them that you just don’t find on many records. Almost none in fact. And certainly I have never heard a CD that sounded remotely like this. I doubt that day will ever come. As long as we have records like this, what difference does it make?
Few clean copies of Zeps Classic First Five Albums can be found in stores these days, and the prices keep going up with no end in sight. The bins full of minty LPs by Pink Floyd, The Stones, Zep, The Beatles, The Who and Classic Rock Artists in general are a thing of the past. The cost of picking up a minty looking copy that sounds like crap or is full of groove damage is considerable to us. Lucky for you, we buy those records so you don’t have to.
Whole Lotta Love
This album is unique in one sense: both sides of ZEP II start our with MONSTER ROCK AND ROLL tracks with unbelievable dynamics, energy and bass. Most bands would be lucky to get one song like this on an album. This album has about five!
The middle section with the cymbals and panning instruments is key to the best copies. When it starts they goose the volume — not subtly mind you — and a big room opens up in which everything starts bouncing around, reflecting off the walls of the studio. It’s a cool effect, there’s no denying it.
This is the loudest, most dynamic cut on side one. If it doesn’t knock you out, keep turning up the volume and playing it again until it does.
What Is and What Should Never Be
Amazing presence. Plant is right there!
The Lemon Song
The bass parts always sounded muddy on the sub-gen copies I often found. The definition and note-like quality here is superb and it’s only on these good originals.
There are real dynamics here — the middle part is at a much lower level than the guitars that follow. This song, like so many on II, is really designed to assault you, to give you the sense that guitars are being broken over your head. That’s the kind of power this track has. It’s also relatively smooth and sweet compared to the rest of the album as a whole.
Side two seems to be cut a little lower than side one, so add about a DB to the volume or this side will sound a bit tame. Again, big and dynamic. These are the BIGGEST, MOST POWERFUL GUITARS I have ever heard on a record. Most copies sound good. The Hot Stampers show you that those big guitars are a lot bigger than you thought.
Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)
Some copies are super transparent, and in some ways that really works on this track, where Plant’s voice can get a bit lost in the mix. But they don’t have the oomph down below, which is why they sound clearer in the midrange. The amazing copies have so much weight and power down there, some clarity in the middle has to suffer. But the power of the music requires prodigous amounts of bass. Without that bass you have just another rock record, not The Monster Rock and Roll Record of All Time. Big difference.
Bring It on Home
When those guitars come in, look out! Another out of control rocker.
Zep II: 1990 – 2010
Here’s the story of my first encounter with a Hot Stamper Zep II.
I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the second album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.
To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.
The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded Wrong.
Let me tell you, it was a milestone event in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.
So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing..
Needless to say, the trade didn’t go through: he kept his copy and I was stuck with mine. But I knew what to look for. I knew what the numbers were in the dead wax. And I started hunting them down.
Our Review of the Mobile Fidelity Zep II
This pressing has to be one of the worst audiophile remastering jobs in the history of the world. There is NOT ONE aspect of the sound that isn’t wrong. Not one!
The highs are boosted, the upper midrange is boosted, the mid-bass is boosted, the low bass is missing — what part of the frequency spectrum is even close to correct on this pressing? The answer: none.
I used to sell the Atlantic German import reissue LPs years ago. At the time I thought they we’re pretty good, but then the Japanese Analog Series came out and I thought those we’re the best. Boy was I wrong. Those Japanese pressings, I realize now, are way too bright. Surprisingly, the German reissues sound more or less correct to me now. They’re tonally balanced from top to bottom, which is more than you can say for 9 out of 10 Led Zep II’s. Yes, you can do better, but it ain’t going to be easy.
And of course the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl pressing is an absolute DISASTER — a ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, completely unlistenable piece of garbage.